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Off the Grid Living : In the Urban Ecosystem

‘Off the Grid’ living, commonly associated with homesteads outside the service area of a municipal electricity grid, is something that most people living in an urban environment wouldn’t normally consider a practical or accessible choice.

We certainly all use, you could even say need, a constant supply of energy – daily – to live a healthy and interdependent life. Whether it is the energy consumed from the food we eat, to the energy that went in to growing and transporting that food, to the electricity that powers our homes and lifestyles to the transportation systems we use.

The question is, where does that energy come from, and are we in balance with our ecosystem or tipping the scales to a point of no return? Can people living in an urban environment reduce their dependence on the grid – whether it is electricity, water, or the global economic grid? In some cases, there are limitations, but with a little creativity and thoughtful use, appropriate technologies can be adopted to reduce our impact on our ecosystem and create more abundance in our lives and in our community locally and globally.


What is Appropriate Technology?

Technology that creates minimal ecological impact while serving basic human needs, using the simplest level of technology that can effectively achieve the intended purpose in a particular location. Some examples are:

Solar Ovens – Solar ovens can reach temperatures over 350 degrees in a couple of hours to cook any food and heat water for individuals or communities.

Rocket Stoves - Rocket stoves burn ½ the amount of fuel than a traditional wood hearth to cook food with virtually no smoke and the use of small scrap wood and sticks. With insulation they are very efficient. Can be used indoors.

Compost Toilets - Composting toilets are the most effective way to stop polluting drinking water around the world. High carbon material like sawdust neutralizes odors and helps the breakdown of nutrients into very healthy, organic plant food.


Books: Heaven’s Flame by Joseph Radabaugh

Rocket Mass Heater’s by Ianto Evans

The Humanure Handbook by Joseph Jenkins

Organizations and Websites:

The Ecology Center of San Francisco – www.eco-sf.org - (415) 846-8164

Aprovecho Research Center – www.aprovecho.org

Center for Renewable Energy and Sustainable Technology www.repp.org

www.SolarCooking.org - Vast database and network of information and resources

www.jenkinspublishing.com/compost_links.html - Detailed information on compost toilets.

www.millenniumassessment.org/en/index.aspx - Through the work of more than 1,360 experts worldwide, five technical volumes and six synthesis reports, provide a scientific appraisal of the condition and trends in the world’s ecosystems and the services they provide (such as clean water, food, forest products, flood control, and natural resources) and the options to restore, conserve or enhance the sustainable use of ecosystems.